A brief history of Janus
Janus began as the brainchild of one extraordinary man – Gordon Sergeant. Originally it was a pocket sized monthly magazine called ‘Mentor’, first published in 1971. Described as a magazine for ‘the modern discerning adult’ and edited by Peter Brewer, Mentor focussed on a range of different fetishes. The magazine changed its name to Janus from issue 5 because Mentor conflicted with the name of another publication. A perceptive member of staff hit on the title ‘Janus’ to signify the Roman god of beginnings and endings who sees forwards and backwards.
The magazine was published in yearly volumes of twelve monthly issues but in 1973 Janus published three specials. The first focussed on bondage, rubber and leather fetishism, the second on spanking and the third on fetishism beneath the skirt. The editorial team were overwhelmed with the response to the spanking special and published a further three spanking specials that same year.
Following the success of the spanking specials the magazine gradually began to shift its focus solely towards spanking. A new editor, AG Van Okker, took the helm in 1973 and the popularity of the magazine began to build. Van was a colourful and well-loved character with an active interest in the subject matter. At this time the magazine was published from offices at 164 North Gower Street, London and the main Janus bookshop was at 10 Irving Street, London.
When the lease on Irving Street ran out in 1977 the main Janus shop moved to 4 Greens Court off Brewer Street. In the late 70’s the lease on Green’s Court also expired and the main Janus bookshop settled in to it’s final home at 40 Old Compton Street.The magazine reached its first 100th issue in 1980. Also in 1980 ‘The Janus Club’ (subsequently renamed ‘The Privilege Club’) was launched and the name of Gordon Sergeant appeared in the magazine for the first time. Fluent in many languages, a crack marksman, and old Harrovian, Gordon was a larger than life character. As well as founding the magazine he was secretary of the Privilege Club for over 25 years and among his many responsibilities he organised the annual Michaelmass School Dinner (hosted by long time Janus supporter and owner of The Bognor Cane Company Sir Dai Llewellyn, pictured above) and once travelled to Malaysia to personally source the supply of a range of punishment canes for the Janus shop.
At the end of 1980, Volume 9, Number 12 marked the 108th and last issue of the yearly volumes. It was the end of an era in more ways than one because Van, who had been very ill for some time, sadly passed away. As photo editor and producer of Janus films the legendary George Harrison-Marks had been supporting Van to edit the magazine during his illness and was the natural choice to take over after his death. The editorial for Volume 9, Number 12 tells readers to look out for Volume 10 Number 1 but it wasn’t to be. The Janus shop may have been firmly established at 40 Old Compton Street by 1981 and was now the mecca for all aficionados of erotic and recreational discipline, but the title of ‘Janus’ was anything but secure. The title rights became the subject of negotiation during this period and while the ownership was being resolved the editorial team launched Volume 1, Number 1 of ‘New Derriere’. New Derriere ran for just six issues while the rights to the name ‘Janus’ were being resolved and later in 1981 ‘New Janus’ Number 1 was born.
George Harrison-Marks continued to edit the magazine during this period also producing some of the most popular films, which were shown in the viewing booths at the back of the shop. His last major film for Janus was ‘Warden’s End’ in 1981, which was shot in and around 40 Old Compton Street. Following the publication of New Janus issue 7 in 1982, George stepped down as editor and left to set up Kane magazine. By this time Janus was no longer the only major spanking magazine on the market. Both Roue and Blushes had arrived on the scene and were proving very popular.
Alan Bell, the owner and editor of Roue was approached to become editor of Janus and, for a short period (Janus 8-10), he was editing both magazines. As part of the new team Alan brought Peter French and Vic Barnes with him and it was Peter and Vic who took over full running of the magazine as editor and photo editor respectively from issue 11. Initially they produced the magazine from offices above the shop before moving to new premises in Golden Square. The next few years were something of a golden age for Janus. Featuring artwork by Lynne Paula Russell and fiction by writers such as Richard Manton and R T Mason the magazine set the standard for its competitors producing innovative photo stories of a consistently high quality even when censorship restrictions were at their peak. Gordon Sergeant’s determination to carry on despite numerous police raids and harassment from the authorities was a testament to his strong character. He believed that people should be free to embrace their sexual needs and fantasises without fear and embarrassment and in this regard he was something of a pioneer.
As access to spanking related material became increasingly more easily available online the Janus publication schedule slowed down with only 4 to 6 new issues being produced each year. When Janus 167 was published in 2007 there was no indication at the time that this was to be the final issue. Despite an excellent re-launch in Janus 161 the magazine had reached the end of its natural life. The Internet had finally seen off the longest running magazine in the world.
In April 2011 the Janus shop shut its doors for the last time. Barely a month later in May, Gordon Sergeant died peacefully in his sleep aged 82. With the closing of the shop and Gordon’s death coming just a month apart it was the passing of an age. Fortunately, the reins have been taken up by Gordon’s nephew Tarquin, who now owns the Janus website where all Janus publications can be downloaded in high quality pdf format including Blushes and Roué magazines thus insuring that Janus will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and appreciate this important publication and it’s contribution to British erotica and sexual freedom.